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Foundation for Endangered Languages

FEL Statement Regarding the Earthquake in Morocco

FEL XXVII (2023)

Rabat, Morocco, 23-25 November 2023



The Foundation for Endangered Languages is deeply saddened by the disaster that has hit Marrakesh and a vast region of the High Atlas, taking some 3000 lives and destroying entire villages, leaving scores of people homeless and bereaved.

The Foundation for Endangered Languages is scheduled to hold its 27th annual conference (FEL XXVII 2023) in Rabat, the capital of Morocco, on 23-25 November. FEL is returning to Morocco and the African continent after 22 years and had hoped this event would be a celebratory visit (Covid prevented a 20th anniversary conference – 20 years since our 2001 Agadir conference – FEL V) as well as both a commemoration and a joyful pilgrimage.

Rabat is at a significant distance from the earthquake zone and the organisation of the conference is therefore not affected, FEL is, however, overwhelmed by the devastation and the suffering of the communities in the disaster zone.

In 2001 FEL’s local colleagues and friends organised excursions to Marrakesh and visits to communities in the High Atlas, the very city and region which are now left wounded and bereft. FEL was treated to sumptuous hospitality, which included generous samplings of culinary, musical and other cultural treasures.

The High Atlas is one of the principle regions of Morocco where Tamazight (and the local variety Tashelhit) is spoken and it is also home to a rich cultural heritage. Part of the tangible heritage, including 12th century edifices, have now been destroyed, and numerous jewels of traditional architecture have been reduced to rubble. Many lives have been changed forever, as a consequence of the loss of loved ones, property and community identity.

The sad news of the events in the Atlas Mountains only underscores the fragility of cultures and languages throughout the world. Communities are indissociable from their culture and identity. We are reminded that In Morocco and in other countries, the threat to cultural diversity is real and it needs our attention. FEL hopes that its members and friends will join together in a big show of support by attending the conference, preferably with physical presence. Together with our heartfelt compassion, we want to express our commitment to the cause of Endangered Languages and to that of Cultural diversity.

FEL strongly encourages its members and others who feel committed to the preservation and revitalisation of endangered languages to support the affected communities in any way they can. On its website the British Red Cross offers a page that offers a description of the situation in the earthquake zone, and also appeals for support and provides donation link to support the communities who suffered from the natural disaster. The link is: https://www.redcross.org.uk/stories/disasters-and-emergencies/world/morocco-earthquake-2023-latest-news-and-updates


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